The Slorker blog has a really neat post about 36 Views of Mount Fuji, the artwork of Katsushika Hokusai. The first in the series of the early 1800s woodblock prints, titled The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is the most popular.
Katsushika Hokusai is an interesting character. One of Japan’s leading experts on Chinese painting during the Edo period, he began painting by the age of 6 and was known by at least 30 names during his lifetime. He was keen on experimental displays of art: once at the competition held by the Shogun, he painted a blue curve on paper while chasing a chicken with red paint on its feet across it. He described it as a landscape showing a river with red maple leaves floating on it. He won.
He was also instrumental in the creation of the modern manga comics you see, having created the Hokusai Manga (random illustrations of animals, religious figures, and everyday people) in 1811 as a way to make money and attract students. [...]
Hokusai died in 1849 at 89 years old. On his deathbed, he said, “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”
Link - Thanks Shaun!